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January 05, 2021

Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas Introduce Legislation to Increase Diversity in the STEM Workforce

(Washington, DC) – Today, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the STEM Opportunities Act. This legislation will support policy reforms, research, and data collection to identify and lower barriers facing women, minorities, and other groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies and research careers. Similar legislation has been introduced every Congress since 2007.

This bill requires more comprehensive demographic data collection on the recipients of federal research awards and on STEM faculty at U.S. universities; the development of consistent federal policies, such as no-cost award extensions, for recipients of federal research awards who have caregiving responsibilities; consistent federal guidance to grant reviewers and program officers on best practices to minimize the effects of implicit bias in the review of federal research grants; requires OSTP to develop guidance for universities and Federal laboratories to aid them in identifying any cultural and institutional barriers limiting the recruitment, retention, and achievement of women, minorities, rural students, and other underrepresented groups in academic and government STEM research careers and in developing and implementing current best practices for reducing such barriers; and authorizes NSF to award grants to universities to implement or expand research-based practices targeted specifically at increasing the recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty.

“Study after study has shown that the underrepresentation of women, and racial and ethnic minorities is not attributable to a lack of interest or talent,” said Chairwoman Johnson (D-TX). “The need for full engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by women and other underrepresented groups goes beyond enabling individuals to fulfill their dreams of becoming a scientist. As the global competition in science and technology continues to intensify, the lack of diversity in the U.S. STEM workforce creates a significant drag on our own capacity to innovate. Our future prosperity depends on what we do now to nurture the STEM talent that will be necessary to keep pace with our competitors and deliver benefits to all Americans.”

“Chairwoman Johnson and I share a commitment to developing and maintaining a strong STEM workforce, which is why I’m pleased we’re starting this Congress by introducing three bipartisan bills to support STEM students and professionals,” said Ranking Member Lucas (R-OK). “To meet our true scientific and technological potential, we need an inclusive and diverse workforce that draws on the full talent pool available in our country. The STEM Opportunities Act addresses the barriers to education, recruitment, and retention of women and underrepresented groups in scientific fields. One such group is American Indian and Alaska Native students, which is why a provision in the bill focuses on enhancing computer science education at Tribal Colleges and Universities. I’m proud that this bill will not only provide more opportunities for Americans pursuing STEM careers, but will also enhance our workforce and competitiveness.”